Gay leader says chance encounter with McCrory was ‘cordial’

LGBT Center of Raleigh executive director met McCrory during walk to work on Monday

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: December 12, 2012 in News

RALEIGH, N.C. — Former Charlotte Mayor and Gov.-elect Pat McCrory hasn’t taken up residence in the Governor’s Mansion yet. He hasn’t even had the opportunity to rearrange the furniture in the governor’s state Capitol offices.

Pat McCrory during a 2012 gubernatorial debate . Screen capture courtesy UNC-TV and NCABEF.

But that didn’t stop James Miller, who works as the executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, from stopping McCrory as he entered a state government building in downtown Raleigh and doing a bit of personal lobbying, so to speak.

Miller says he was walking from his apartment on Peace St. to the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s offices on Hillsborough St. on Monday morning when he noticed McCrory and some security staffers exiting a vehicle in front of the Albemarle Building on N. Salisbury St.

Miller stopped and said hello to the future governor, who takes office on Jan. 5. McCrory returned the “good morning”and a short conversation ensued.

“He said he was going in to file same paperwork,” Miller says. “I introduced myself and where I work and I told him LGBT people still need his help. He said he was pleased with what we’ve been doing and knows what we’ve been going through.”

Miller says the conversation, though short, was “cordial.” He hopes it is a positive sign for McCrory’s ensuing administration.

“I feel like he is an educated-enough individual, especially after Amendment One,” said Miller, referencing the anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment passed 61-39 percent by voters in May. “I hope he steps back and is willing to at least listen.”

McCrory, a Republican, never said much about the amendment during the spring campaign, though he did say publicly that he would be voting for it.

In Charlotte, McCrory’s relationship with the LGBT community during his 14-year tenure as mayor was often tenuous. He once said he wanted local Pride festivities taken out of a public park and held in a private setting. He also opposed extension of benefits to same-sex partners of city employees and refused for several years to write a welcome letter to the Human Rights Campaign’s North Carolina fundraising gala.

Miller: Other chance meetings

Miller’s Monday conversation with McCrory isn’t the first time the local LGBT community leader has had the chance opportunity to meet and greet with local and state government leaders.

Miller says he and the LGBT Center of Raleigh had a friendly relationship with former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, who lives “down the road” from the center’s offices. Current Mayor Nancy McFarlane, says Miller, passes by the center on her daily runs.

A chance encounter with North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall sticks out as particularly memorable.

Miller says he was in a “laid back mode” working on youth development projects when Marshall happened upon the center.

“Obviously, she wasn’t looking for services or needing anything,” says Miller. “She just wanted to see what it was and she asked a lot about our programs. I was just taken aback. Here I was in flip flops and shorts and a state officer walks in. She was incredible.”

Miller attributes the luck to the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s location, situated near the corner of Hillsborough St. and S. West St. just blocks from the Capitol and state Legislative Building.

“That’s why we picked this thoroughfare,” says Miller. “It’s central to transportation and visible to the entire community. It’s something that I didn’t realize would be such a powerful statement.”

Miller says the location offers great visibility, even if the office space isn’t quite as large as the group needs for its current programming.

“Some people wanted a lot of space and a lot of people wanted visibility,” says Miller.

Their current location, he says, is leading to greater awareness and future financial support. The center’s goal, Miller adds, is to have both cost-efficient space and the added benefit of a highly-visible location.

Until then, Miller will keep relishing in the occasional encounter with government leaders. The interactions between LGBT community members and people like McCrory and Marshall are a plus for ensuring government leaders continue to be aware of LGBT community member’s needs. It’s a boon, he says, not only to Raleigh’s local LGBT community, but also the entire state’s.

“State agencies are right down the road from us,” he says. “The location is really perfect.”